09 November 2009

A Word About OPKs and Saliva Scopes

What is an ovulation predictor kit (OPK)?

OPKs are testing strips that supposedly tell you when you are about to ovulate. Just before ovulation occurs, your body releases a luteinizing hormone. OPKs predict this surge so that you can act accordingly and have unprotected sex.

How does it work?

There are different types of tests, but you usually have to pee on the stick at a certain time of the day (early to mid-afternoon is best, but never use your first morning urine). You also have to start testing at a certain point in your cycle. You want to start testing right before midway through your cycle, since that is when ovulation occurs. If you have the standard 28-day cycle, or instance, you would ovulate on day 14. Your luteinizing hormones would surge just before that, maybe on day 12 or 13. You want the test to catch that surge, so start testing around day 10 or 11.

The luteinizing hormones shows up in your urine, which is why you have to pee on the stick, or at least pee into a cup and hold the testing strip in the cup for a few seconds.

I've seen the surge... now what?

Once an OPK gives you a positive reading (meaning your LH surge has occurred), you will most likely ovulate within 12 to 48 hours. This translates to: have sex now!

How do I read the test?

Okay, I will be honest. This is what I hate about OPKs. For me, the testing results were not very clear. With a pregnancy test, as long as you see those two lines, no matter how faint or bright, you know you are pregnant. But with an OPK, the result line has to be as dark as or darker than the control line to be positive. I cannot tell you how many different rooms I ran into to compare the lines in different lines.

If I am already charting, why use an OPK?

Charting only tells you after you have ovulated. Yes, within time you will be able to predict when it will happen, and then get a pat on the back when your temperature rises to reassure you that, yes, you did just correctly predict ovulation. But if you are shaky or want that extra sense of reassurance, then using an OPK will help because it verifies you are about to ovulate. It tells you before it happens. So if you use the charting method and OPKs together, you may have better luck.

Okay, Jessica, why do I get the feeling you don't like them?

As I already said, I had trouble reading them, and I consider myself to be somewhat intelligent. Never did an OPK test help me conceive. I know they work for others, but... who knows exactly why they didn't work for me? I tried testing during the suggested window and right at the suggested time; I started testing on day 8, just to be sure, and kept going until I saw my thermal shift (which means I wouldn't get a positive reading because ovulation already occurred); I tried five different brands. I never once got a positive reading, even when I started trying to conceive the first time and was ovulating every cycle.

I will say this, though. If you are going to try OPKs, buy them in bulk online. They are much cheaper and you can buy several months' worth at one time. The more you buy, the cheaper they are. I bought 25 tests for just under a dollar apiece. If you want to buy over 100 of them at once, they are just over 50 cents apiece. Think that sounds like too much money? If you go to a drug store and buy a two-test OPK kit for $7, you have just spent over $3 on a single test. And since you will probably be using more than two tests per cycle, at least in the beginning, you are going to spend a lot more money.

Murphy's Law says to buy as many as you can afford to, and the more you buy, the earlier you will get pregnant and not need the rest.

What are these "saliva scopes"?

They are properly known as reuseable fertility microscopes, but I like my name better, and it just rolls off the tongue a lot more easily. Saliva scopes use your saliva to tell you whether or not you are fertile. The more fertile you become as your cycle continues, the more of a ferning pattern you will see.

How do you use a saliva scope?

At the very beginning of each morning, right around the time you take your BBT, you take some of the saliva from the inside of your cheek (or under your tongue, some tests will instruct you differently), slather it on the glass of the microscope, wait for it to dry, then look at it through the lens. It's definitely easy to see the ferning pattern if one emerges

Interpreting the Results

Saliva scopes, if they work at all, won't be as precise as OPKs, if they work at all, when it comes sto predicting when ovulation will occur. While an OPK will give you a 12-28 hour window, saliva scopes give you almost a week. No harm done, really, but few couples can continue month after month with a week of straight sex.

Again, Jessica, why are you not buying it?

That's just the problem: I did buy one of these things. I was delighted the first time I used it to see the ferning pattern. Then the next day all I saw was dots. Then the next day I saw ferns again. It never told me when I was ovulating. It was a waste of my time and money.

Then again, I have heard some women swear by this thing, and the best part is, it's reusable. If you want to be like me and have as much reassurance as possible every month, then splurge. I wouldn't have felt I tried my hardest unless I had every affordable fertility predictor in my medicine cabinet. But if you want to be practical, skip it. The results will leave you even more confused.

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